A new Finnish study has found that men who use saunas frequently are less likely to die of heart disease. The risk of death from heart disease was even lower if the men visited the saunas more often each week, and when the men used the saunas for a longer period of time each session. Who knew something so relaxing might also be that good for you?
The study looked at 2,300 middle-aged men, and followed them for an average of 20 years. A traditional Finnish sauna has dry air between 176 and 212 degrees, with 10-20% humidity. The study did not prove a causal link between saunas and decreased risk of death from heart disease, as it is possible that the healthier the men were, the more likely they were to use the saunas with greater frequency and greater longevity.
However, the link is very impressive: At 2-3 sessions a week, risk of cardiac death was down 22%, risk of fatal heart disease was down 23%, and risk of death from heart disease or stroke was down 27%. Increasing to 4-7 sauna sessions per week decreased risk of cardiac death by 63%, risk of fatal heart disease was down 48%, and risk of death from heart disease or stroke was down 50%.
The reason saunas are good for the heart isn’t clear, but it might be because the heat of a sauna puts a similar healthy stress on the heart to that which occurs during exercise. It increases heart rate and body temperature, and makes the heart muscle squeeze more.
The study was published in the February 23, 2015 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.
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